Eating a nutritious, balanced diet is something everyone knows they should do, but being able to stick to a healthy eating plan can be a challenge for many people. A good diet and healthy lifestyle are factors that affect longevity and improve quality of life, and they are within your power to influence, but the temptation to eat too many sweet treats or pick up a takeaway can be hard to resist. If you want to improve your diet, but you’re struggling to make the necessary changes, here are some ideas to help you.
Taking things one step at a time
Some people find it easier to make dramatic changes in their lives rather than alter their habits gradually, like smokers who quit overnight and never smoke again. Making a clean break seems to work well for them, whereas if they try and cut down or change over time they find it harder to stick to their goals. For most people, however, it’s easier to make changes more moderately. If you’ve tried making drastic changes to no avail, it’s worth attempting a more measured approach. For example, say you want to cut down on red meat in your diet, but the smell of a sizzling steak or the aroma of frying bacon is too hard to resist. One way of addressing this is to view that steak as more of a treat than a staple part of your diet, so when you buy meat, you choose the highest quality but have it less frequently. You can read more here about the difference between factory farmed beef and meat from free range, grass fed cattle, and if you can reduce your consumption from three meals containing cheaper meat to one meal a week made with high-quality beef, you’ll be making a considerable difference to your intake without having to go cold turkey.
Find out more
If you don’t have enough knowledge about a situation or problem, you can’t do much about it. Say there’s a hurricane in the south, and people are being made homeless; unless you find out the details of what’s happened and how you can assist, the news is just another background story that doesn’t have much impact on your life. People usually want to change their diet for one of two key reasons; either to improve their health or to make a contribution towards issues such as animal welfare and climate change. Whichever aspect forms your primary motivation, finding out as much as you can about the topics concerned will mean you have the knowledge to be able to make informed choices about what you eat. When you do any form of research, make sure the sources you’re using are impartial and based on fact. There are many websites on the Internet which are composed of rumors, opinions, and myths, rather than verifiable facts, and you’ll find all manner of scare stories, misinformation, and even scams when it comes to finding out about food and nutrition.
Try new foods and new cooking methods
With healthy eating being such big business, there’s no shortage of choice when it comes to buying alternative foods.
- If you like meat but would prefer to eat less of it, there are numerous meat substitutes you can try. If you don’t like the first soy-based products you sample, go for a different brand or recipe, or experiment with other meat substitute products. Being a vegetarian doesn’t mean you’ll like every veggie food or meal, any more than you’d like every omnivorous meal, so you need to try different foods and develop your palate. Vegan living has become highly fashionable of late, and there are far more plant-based foods and recipes available. Meat eaters are often surprised by how delicious vegetarian and vegan meals can be, but with so many ingredients on the market and thousands of recipes to try at home, it shouldn’t be such a surprise.
- If sugar is your comfort food, there are a range of substitute products that you can use as sugar replacements. Some of the more traditional sweeteners are thought to have their own health risks associated with them, but newer plant-based sugar substitutes may provide a healthier alternative. Or you could cut out refined sugar and use products like fruit juices instead. You can make a lovely sweet and sticky cake using dates instead of sugar, for example.
- Now we know that some fats are actually beneficial to health, swapping your existing fat sources for healthier plant oils is a reasonably simple action you can take. Cutting out fat altogether isn’t good for your health; what’s important is using the best forms of fat and eating them in moderation. Omega-3 fatty acids and plant-based fats from nuts, seeds, and beans are the ones to switch to, cutting down on the saturated fats and avoiding trans fats.
Get friends and family involved
It’s always easier to eat healthy meals when the people you live with are eating healthily too. For one thing, it’s extra work to prepare different meals, and if they aren’t encouraging you, it’s all too easy to revert to your former habits. Even if they aren’t as determined as you are to change their diet, getting your family’s support will help you in your efforts. If they aren’t that keen on making changes, try introducing new foods and different recipes gradually, and don’t enforce drastic changes on everyone. If they have a gentle introduction to healthy meals, they’re more likely to have a positive approach, and if they enjoy the new recipes, then you’ll all stand a far greater chance of making permanent, beneficial changes.
Just like trying to lose weight, if your good intentions slip, don’t feel too bad; indulging in the odd plate of fries or an ice cream sundae doesn’t constitute a failure. In fact, any effort you make in the right direction will contribute to improved health and wellbeing, so if you want to feel better and live a happier life, keep working on changing your eating habits.